Royster's "When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own"

Royster, Jacqueline Jones. "When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own." The Norton Book of Composition Studies. Ed. Susan Miller. New York: Norton, 2009. 1117-1127. Print.

Royster calls for a paradigm shift that includes hearing others, because "'subject' position is really everything"; in other words, our stories and contexts inform our interpretations so we need to keep them in mind (1117-1118).  Valuing subjectivity and positionality is important because it means respecting others' expert knowledge rather than speaking for them (1125). Royster shares three scenes that illuminate her experience being silenced and marginalized while those with privilege claim to represent her and her community (1118-1119). 

In the first scene, Royster uses the concept of "home training" to show that in our daily lives, we have rules for respecting others' spaces, supporting her argument that those in the mainstream should not presume to make themselves at home in discourse communities they are only visiting, but rather be open to the experience to better enable learning from, sharing with, and understanding one another (1120-1121). The second scene involves seeing oneself through the eyes of others (1121-1122). Royster shares that when she discusses her work examining nineteenth century African American women's writing, she encounters surprise--and their disbelief shows an interpretation of Royster as a "performer" rather than a person to be believed (1122-1123).  In the third scene, Royster calls for recognition that individuals each have multiple authentic voices, and suggests that to expect only one denies the value of hybridity and plurality (1124). 

One question of Royster's I'd like to come back back to in future research: "How can we teach, engage in research, write about, and talk across boundaries with others, instead of for, about, and around them" (1124)?

CompositionKatie Ancheta